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Kids, families kick off the new year with a slew of activities in downtown State College

Lisel Perles, 5, chooses a colored pencil to create her magnet maze at the Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania in downtown State College on Saturday. The maze is made using magnets on either side of a paper plate that guides a rocket ship through the children’s drawings.
Lisel Perles, 5, chooses a colored pencil to create her magnet maze at the Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania in downtown State College on Saturday. The maze is made using magnets on either side of a paper plate that guides a rocket ship through the children’s drawings. knetzer@centredaily.com

The first Saturday of the new year brought children and their families to downtown State College.

The day was filled with family-friendly events at establishments including Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania and Schlow Centre Region Library.

Employing a science-based theme, Discovery Space held its first “Make-uary” event of the new year on Saturday morning.

“Make-uary” is a series of events held throughout January and February that promotes creativity through making things.

And each week targets a new theme, said Colleen Andreychik, operations manager.

Saturday started with the “Make your own magnet maze” activity. Next week is “Design your own gliders and helicopters.”

Kids like 4-year-old Olly Belchyuk outlined with a black marker an already-created maze on a paper plate. With a magnetic rocket ship as a game piece, he was able to move the pawn through the maze using a magnet he dragged from underneath the plate.

Andreychik said it was a simple activity that allowed young children to think critically while making their way through the maze.

There were similar education activities nearby at the library.

Anita Ditz, head of children’s services, said the library’s been holding what they call “block parties” since 2013.

The first Saturday of each month gives young children the opportunity to play with wooden blocks. The third Saturday of each month gives older kids the opportunity to play with Legos.

The events, from 2-4 p.m., are free to the public.

Ditz said the programs are sponsored by a grant from the state Office of the Commonwealth Libraries.

But it’s more than just stacking up blocks and knocking them down.

Ditz said the Block Party program is an educational tool for youth.

“It’s building education with socialization, creativity and letting them explore their own imaginations,” she said. “It even creates questions like, ‘How can we create a block structure as tall as we can?’ They’re always thinking.”

The eight-stage block program lets kids to go through various sessions as they work their way through learning.

According to a document from the library, Stage 1 lets children physically explore the blocks. Stage 2 begins the stacking process, leading up to Stages 7 and 8 that helps kids stack blocks using patterns and symmetry, and get into role-playing.

Ditz said “creative play” is the foundation to many library programs.

“We’re not just a library where you can find books,” she said. “The library is a community center.”

Daniel Jontof-Hutter brought his two children to Schlow on Saturday for the first time and said it was worth the drive from Centre Hall.

“It’s big in here, and there is a lot to do,” he said. “It’s a good thing to do on a cold day.”

His son Eitan, 3, and daughter Yael, 1, played with wooden blocks in a room designated for the program.

Ditz said the events attract dozens of kids and their families, but it’s never overwhelming.

“We get a steady flow of people who come in and out, so it’s always busy, but not to the point that we can’t handle it,” she said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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